When Tim Sweeney is out in the world discussing pedestrian things—the sweet tea at a particular barbecue restaurant, say, or the irony of having a hockey team in North Carolina, a place without much naturally occurring ice—part of him seems to be missing. It’s as if some roped-off area of his parietal lobe is back in the office, mulling over whatever conundrum is plaguing his graphics guys: how best to digitally re-create the diffusion of light through skin maybe, or how to show the world reflected in a character’s eye.
Tall and thin, with hair slightly unkempt and glasses thick enough to focus sunlight into a lethal, ant-killing beam, Sweeney often sounds short of breath while talking, which makes his already wispy voice seem as though it might fade out entirely at any second. Only when small talk turns technical does the founder of Epic Games seem to come truly alive. His eyes light up, his voice grows stronger, and he begins measuring the world in orders of magnitude and processing speed. Sweeney is living in the future, and he wants us all to see it.